Consider these options when planning your next winemaker-hosted or wine-paired dinner.
Under two: Have winemakers and experts present their overview or guided tasting before dinner to keep time at the table under two hours. This format lets guests interact during the dinner and works well with groups no larger than 40.
Explore themes: Wine-paired dinners organized around a theme like Champagne can have a broad appeal but exploring little-known regions and indigenous varieties can also be a draw for consumers. Tim Kilcullen, vice president of wine for Capital Wine and Spirits, a broker and wholesaler of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania, will present “The Old is New Again, The Surprise of Greek Wines” at the Golden Sheaf restaurant at the Harrisburg Hilton in Pennsylvania for $85.
Weekly or monthly: Wine-paired, prix-fixe menus offered weekly or monthly afford consumers the personal attention of the sommelier and the chef without being subject to a group activity. This is one of the ways that the winemaker dinner has evolved towards a more personal and relaxed wine-with-dinner experience.
Communal table: Adopt a casual approach to wine dinners with communal tables and family-style service.
Casual doesn’t automatically mean lower margins, communal table dinners can range from $45 to $95 per person depending on your menu and clientele. Marketing your events using social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs will help you achieve better outreach both within and beyond your existing community.
Collaborate: Teaming up with a local wine and spirits retailer is one of the quickest ways for operators who lack in-house expertise to succeed with wine-paired dinners. At Chicago’s Home Bistro, chef-owner Joncarl Lachman joins forces with wine retailer Lush for The Farm Dinner Series which is offered on the last Sunday of every month for $49. Lush pairs wines with each course and includes a wide range of varieties and wine styles. A recent dinner included wines from Portugal, the Victoria and Western regions of Australia and Italy’s Emilia-Romagna.
Dessert cocktails: Spirits are making their way onto wine-paired menus and dessert seems to be the sweet spot for a cocktail pairing. Dessert cocktails can be a savory digestif that mirrors the ingredients in the dessert itself for example, an Aperol cocktail with a Rhubarb dessert or a rich and creamy cocktail that’s a dessert unto itself.
Related story: Evolution of Winemaker Dinners